Arthur Mitchell has become a political veteran of sorts in the six years since he took over the reins of the Yukon Liberal Party, then formed the territory’s Official Opposition.
Mitchell, a 61-year-old former real estate agent and general store owner, now has more years in elected office than Yukon Party Leader Darrell Pasloski and NDP Leader Liz Hanson, both of whom are political newcomers.
Mitchell was working as a real estate agent when in 2002 he made a low-profile and unsuccessful run to represent the newly formed Whitehorse riding of Copperbelt. He lost to the Yukon Party's Haakon Arntzen.
Three years later, Mitchell surprised many when he entered the Liberal leadership race to challenge Pat Duncan, who served as premier from 2000 to December 2002, when she called an early election that reduced her party from a majority government to a rump with just one seat.
Mitchell defeated the political veteran by 54 votes, assuming the top Liberal post in June 2005.
Mitchell then took another run at the Copperbelt riding in a November 2005 byelection, when Arntzen stepped down amid legal troubles. Mitchell won by more than 170 votes, doubling the Liberal seats in the legislative assembly from one to two.
Then in the spring of 2006, just months before that fall’s territorial election, two NDP members of the legislative assembly – Kluane's Gary McRobb and Mayo-Tatchun's Eric Fairclough – crossed the floor to join the Liberals.
With four seats to the NDP's three, the Liberal party moved up in status to become the Official Opposition.
Mitchell and his four Liberal MLAs were re-elected in the October 2006 election. They also gained a fifth member when Darius Elias won the Vuntut Gwitchin district.
From 2006 onward, Mitchell became a vocal critic of then-premier Dennis Fentie’s Yukon Party government. He has criticized recent budgets exceeding $1 billion and called on the government to act on homelessness and other social issues.
Now with the Yukon Party aiming for a third majority government under Pasloski’s leadership, and Hanson’s New Democrats hoping to make gains, it will be up to Mitchell to maintain the Liberal party’s presence in the legislative assembly. A poll conducted by DataPath Systems in July suggested that public support for the Liberals have dropped from 39 per cent in July 2010 to 15 per cent.